The Economist is a plum. In all honesty, I was thrilled we were mentioned. I wish they had gone to people with real data on Africa like RIA, rather than those who simply speculate, but still, a thoughtful piece. While the claim re radio may hold true for Africa, it definitely is incorrect for the Indo-Gangetic plain. Once restricted to the tech-literate, these are now common and easy to use.
Yesterday the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) have been updated behind the closed door after fortnight-long extensive intergovernmental debates in Dubai. Dubbing it the possible “Digital cold war” the Economist said: The most important result of the conference has been to demonstrate that the world now splits into two camps when it comes to the internet: one is comprised of more authoritarian countries, which would like to turn back the clock and regain sovereignty over their own national bits of the internet; the other wants to keep the internet and its governance as it is (bearing in mind that some of its members’ motives may not always be as pure as they pretend). This sounds much like a digital version of the cold war. The funny thing is that the leading countries in the two camps are the same two that were at loggerheads until the iron curtain parted. One must hope that the failure of the WCIT is not a first step towards raising a digital one.
Findings from LIRNEasia‘s multi-country study on the use of ICTs, particularly for more-than-voice, has been cited in the Economist. LIRNEasia‘s CEO, Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, was also cited. The number of users is still small: even among young people in South-East Asia (a tech-friendly lot) only 8% had used “more-than-voice” services, according to a poll by LIRNEasia. But the potential is exciting.
Most people do not associate telecenters with the United States. That’s because they are called public libraries there. The Economist reports that more people are coming to the American telecenters because critical government and other services are increasingly available only through the web and because some people have dropped home connections in the hard times of the Great Recession. The best way for America to ease the new strain on its libraries is by closing the digital divide; companies and state agencies are unlikely ever to give up the efficiencies they won by moving online. Around $7 billion of 2009’s stimulus went to expand broadband access.
Much has been written about Kenya’s m-money system. Here the Economist highlights a Gates Foundation paper that highlights an aspect that has not been much written about, the need to balance e money and real money in the hands of the retailers. There are many elements to a successful mobile-money scheme: the right technology, simple marketing, partnerships with banks, support from regulators. But keeping it all going are people like Gaudencia, moving bundles of cash around, on buses and in vans, behind the scenes.
One expects the Economist to give weight to economic explanations. But not in fluff pieces written over the holiday break. According to the Economist, heavy mobile use is explained by latitude, not the ultra-low prices that are the result of the Budget Telecom Network Model. Yet these global trends hide starkly different national and regional stories. Vittorio Colao, the boss of Vodafone, which operates or partially owns networks in 31 countries, argues that the farther south you go, the more people use their phones, even past the equator: where life is less organised people need a tool, for example to rejig appointments.
Anybody could have guessed this. It is unimaginable that entire world will go through a recession simultaneously. Not everyone can be losers for too long. There should be winners somewhere. For example, what would the US firms that find their human resources costs, logically do?